Iraqi police have begun removing Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) flags in the northern city of Kirkuk city, saying that it is illegal to hang flags of the autonomous region.
Mervan al-Ani, an official from the Kirkuk provincial governor's office, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the office instructed police to take down the flags, which were recently raised on Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) buildings and along some streets.
Ani said placing KRG flags on buildings and streets is "illegal."
"We do not want to live through political and social instability again in the city," he added.
Relations between the Iraqi government and the KRG have remained strained since September 2017 when the KRG held an unconstitutional referendum on Kurdish regional independence. Baghdad responded to the illegitimate poll by imposing a broad range of sanctions on the Irbil-based KRG. Home to large Turkmens, Kurdish and Arab communities, Kirkuk is one of several parts of Iraq disputed between Baghdad and the KRG. In the wake of the 2017 referendum, federal forces seized control of all parts of Iraq "disputed" between Baghdad and Irbil, including oil-rich Kirkuk province. Oil extraction and pumping in Iraq's northern Kirkuk province was suspended in October 2017.
The governor of Kirkuk also asked the central government in Baghdad yesterday to send military reinforcements following a PUK rally in the city that was dispersed by Iraqi forces for the waving of KRG flags.
Kirkuk Governor Saeed al-Jabouri has reportedly urged local residents to refrain from any activities that could aggravate tensions further.
"We have directed the security forces to address the situation with a view to safeguarding the city's security and stability," he was quoted as saying.
Al-Jabouri has reportedly requeste
d that Baghdad send military reinforcements "to thwart those who would attempt to undermine security."